Ken Middleton, Master Ukuleleist

In the comments of my post that included some huge number of youtube performances of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” I included probably the best of all such performances, Ken Middleton’s ukulele version.  To make up for that strange oversight, I add a few more samples of Middleton’s work.

Stompin’ at the Savoy, written by Edgar Sampson

The Scientist, by Coldplay 

The Tennessee Waltz, in Leonard Cohen’s version. 

Do Not Be Afraid, an original song (of a Christian nature) by Ken Middleton


  1. cymast

     /  December 2, 2008


    “Stompin’ at the Savoy” reminds me of open mike night at a hotel’s seaside stage in Honolulu. I’m sipping Mai Tais and munching on a pupu platter while listening to talented musicians sing and play. A gentle breeze rustles the billows of my muumuu.

    “The Scientist” makes me think of south California in the early 1960s. Funny thing, I wasn’t there, or anywhere for that matter, in the early 1960s.

  2. acilius

     /  December 2, 2008

    I can absolutely see both of those associations. I often think of sunny southern Cal circa 1962 when I think of scientists, in part because of reading Richard Feynman’s books of anecdotes about CalTech.

  3. cymast

     /  December 3, 2008

    Funny, I was thinking of the stlye of Ken Middleton’s rendition of “The Scientist” as being a predecessor to the style of something like this:

  4. acilius

     /  December 3, 2008

    Thanks for the link! I love surf music.

  5. cymast

     /  December 3, 2008

    You’re welcome! I love it too- it sounds so carefree and happy.

  6. acilius

     /  December 5, 2008

    Here’s a new video, a version of Leonard Cohen’s “Light as the Breeze.”

  7. cymast

     /  December 7, 2008

    I found that one a bit creepy . .

  8. acilius

     /  December 8, 2008

    Strange, I thought “Do Not Be Afraid,” the religious song, was a bit creepy, but that “Light as the Breeze” wasn’t, not in Middleton’s version. I think Middleton’s simple style and sincere affect are perfect for taking the creepiness out of Leonard Cohen’s songs. Cohen’s ironic perspective and tragic sense need the plainest possible setting to keep from sounding nasty, that worship song is different. The words and music are so sincere that it needs some kind of ironic touch (maybe a very slight one) to keep a solo performer from sounding like a glassy-eyed zombie.

  9. cymast

     /  December 8, 2008

    “Do Not Be Afraid” I found creepy too, but less so, because as a cult song, it was more familiar.

    Having said that I must say Middleton is indeed a sincere ukulele player.

  10. acilius

     /  December 9, 2008

    He surprises me every time I hear him. The extreme simplicity of his playing and singing show just how many frills and extras other performers use. Usually I think I know what is going on in a song I’m listening to, but he strips away layer after layer of complications and special effects beneath those I had known were there.

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